Lessons learned in social media fast

By Danielle Scroggins | Published Saturday, April 14, 2018

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Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tumblr, even Words With Friends – there are so many forms of social media. And while I don’t keep up or even have an account on all of them, I will admit the few I do own have dominated my phone.

In light of this self reflection, I chose to steer clear of social media in observance of Lent – the 40 days before Easter in which my Catholic faith adopts the practice of a small sacrifice in honor of the larger sacrifices made in our name. I know to some it may sound silly, “giving up” social media as a “sacrifice,” but honestly, it did require adjustment on my part. I was surprised by how much my daily habits were tied up online.

This was my plan: delete all social media apps from my phone and engage with people personally. To my surprise, it didn’t take long for my plan to completely and absolutely fail – big time fail.

The first failure: “Did you get my invitation on Facebook?” Um, nope. “I’m not on Facebook, you know, for Lent.” Looking up at my friend’s confused face, I promised to check for the invitation on my computer upon my return home.

In just one week of no Facebook, I had missed an assortment of announcements, invitations, questions from friends and personal messages. I had no idea how much of my communication stream came from a social media platform.

I answered the messages quickly and logged out. At that point I decided I should “check in” about once a week, again from the computer, to stay in tune with my responsibilities.

The second failure: I needed a picture for a project I’m working on for a Christmas present. I didn’t want to give the project away by asking direct questions, so I decided to Instagram-stalk to obtain said picture.

It snowballed from there. I listened to a podcast in the car, and wanted to learn more about the topic. Enter Instagram feed. I discovered Instagram stories – tiny videos from people on your feed. Enter new people I “should” follow to feed my soul vibe of inspirational quotes for the day. I also discovered when one posts to Instagram, one can simultaneously post to Facebook or Twitter. Since I like to bind my Facebook into scrapbooks, I decided to post a few pics of the kiddos doing their things, so as to not have holes in the yearly story. Ladies and gentlemen, I totally fell off the wagon. While I did maintain abstinence from Twitter and Facebook from my phone, I found a new place to scroll in Instagram.

Even through these failures, I gained incredible insight from my “social media fast.” First, I waste way too much time scrolling. Alone at a stoplight? Scroll. Waiting on kids after school? Scroll. Timing dinner? Scroll. Commercial? Scroll.

Without most of my usual social media available, and severely limiting my access to Instagram (hiding it on the back page of my phone), I realized how I let my introvert guide me into hiding behind technology. Shame on me.

I also realized that my emotions can be affected by social media. Seriously? I’m a 42-year-old mother of three, and my feelings can have a fit by a simple digital phrase or picture? Silly.

Without this access, I listened to more podcasts, texted my people, read more books, had more conversations with strangers and felt happier. In short, I learned, connected and associated with my world more authentically – which, if you remember, is my word for 2018. Go me.

In my self-inflicted timeout, I also noticed how much of the world is also scrolling. I sat in waiting rooms, restaurants, bars, dealerships, schools and offices and watched people “together” not engage in conversation and only engage with their scroll.

Maybe some were working. Maybe some were texting a family member in need. But I have a hunch that most were just scrolling to waste time.

In light of this experiment, I have decided to permanently keep Facebook off my phone but have allowed Instagram and Twitter to stay. If I am completely honest, I did fall behind on a few rather big news stories without Twitter. While I like my Danielle bubble to be rosy, I should probably know more about the goings on in the world around me.

I also genuinely missed expressing gratitude online to storefronts, services and the wonderful people in my world. Despite the negatives of scrolling, in one quick picture and post I can share kindness with the universe, and just maybe make someone smile – a nice, authentic smile. My habits have permanently changed. I am aware of how I use my phone, especially when I’m with actual people. I’m excited to move forward and live in real life.

On another note, I must thank the Wise County Messenger readers for the overwhelming kind words of support for my last article and of course, my Daisy. I was so touched by the Facebook messages (Can you say irony?), texts and compliments. As luck would have it, Daisy has a Twitter feed, and can be found at @DaniellasDaisy if you would like to see how she spends her days. She also gave up Twitter for Lent, but is getting back online more frequently now that the fast is over.

Hopefully you read this article on paper, but now it’s time to put it down, look someone in the eye and ask about their day. Connect. Smile. And I encourage you to live every day as though it’s real life.

Danielle Scroggins is a Decatur resident, Decatur High School graduate and mother of three. She writes a monthly column, Life is Kid’s Stuff, for the Messenger.

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